(OSV News) — Grace Stacker of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, pulled out her cell phone and called her father, right in the middle of a conversation during the National Catholic Youth Conference.
In fact, teenagers all around her were talking on their phones even as the speaker stood on stage.
But they had his permission.
“I want you right now, for one minute, to just call someone in your life that you love, that is pretty special, that you value,” scripture scholar and astrophysicist Father John Cartier asked the more than 12,000 NCYC attendees.
The request came as part of his speech on the unity of God and the universe — faith and science — that served as the theme of the NCYC’s opening session at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 16.
He began the speech by repeating the words spoken by Archbishop Charles S. Thompson shortly before.
“The line that really struck me among everything he said was this,” noted Father Cartier: “You are not a problem to be solved, but you are a mystery to be faced.”
Archbishop speaks to NCYC participants about the theme of the event
Archbishop Thompson spoke to the teenagers about this year’s NCYC theme “Fully Alive” in a prayer service at the start of the opening session — after the teens had calmed down from a rousing concert by a Christian rock band for KING + COUNTRY.
He quoted his “favorite line” from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with joy and praise.”
“We heard this wonderful reading about creation from the Book of Genesis,” Archbishop Thompson said of the opening prayer service. “But the ultimate part of that creation is when God created mankind, when God created us. We are part of this creation, given life by the Spirit breathing in us, by the Word taking root in us, claiming us as his own.
“And so no one here is a problem to be solved, but to be contemplated as a joyful mystery with joy and praise.
“Whatever hurts in our lives, whatever happens, whatever hurts, whatever guilt, whatever fears, whatever anxieties, whatever – it doesn’t define us.”
Rather, he said, we are defined by our identity in Christ, whose body, blood, soul and divinity are present in the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist is given to us through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that we may have life, that we may have what it takes to witness the good news, what it means to be fully alive,” Archbishop. Thompson said.
“We are most fully alive when we live our lives not with ourselves at the center, but with Christ at the center. We are fully alive when we live for the glory of God and in the service of others.
“We gather tonight remembering that we belong to something greater than ourselves as children of God, made in God’s image. We have dignity, a dignity that no power on earth can take away from us.
“That’s why we can claim to be fully alive.”
Looking at the intersection of faith, science is what seems “fully alive,” the speaker argued
Father Cartier picked up where Archbishop Thompson left off – speaking on the topic of NCYC.
“If you’re talking about being fully alive, I can think of no better way to understand what that looks like in our world today than to look at this interaction between faith and science,” he said. With doctorates in Scripture and astrophysics, the current chancellor and president of Saint Mary of the Lake University/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, is an expert on both subjects.
He quoted John 1:3: “All things were made through him. Without him, not a single thing happened.”
“There are a hundred billion galaxies,” Father Cartier said. “This same God of creation is the God who lives in our own bodies. The same God who gives you the galaxies…gives us life itself in our hearts.”
Both science and faith are ways of looking at the world, he explained – one through the lens of a telescope, the other through the glass of a monstrance.
“The Eucharist that you see through the glass of the monstrance gives us the opportunity to see the body and blood of Christ in a way that does not look like the body and blood of Christ,” Father Cartier said.
Meanwhile, through the new Webb telescope, “you can see the world going all the way back to Genesis,” he said. “This is the world returning to the life that is within us. It’s a landmark in itself, these beautiful images from the Webb Telescope, to look at them for who Jesus is, precisely because he is the one through whom all this glorious astronomy is possible.”
To look at the universe or to look at Christ in the Eucharist, Father Cartier said, “literally means to let yourself be looked at by the one who delights in your very existence.”
Regarding his request for more than 12,000 youngsters to name someone they love, Father Cartier explained the connection between faith and science.
“The person you called is probably feeling loved right now,” he said. “The reason something special happens in this relationship is what you see in the monstrance. That is why Christ came into the world – the one who does all this is love.”